New research by a geopolitical think-tank makes the case that Britain is second only to the United States as a global power.
According to the Henry Jackson Society, their new report ‘Towards a Global Britain: Challenging the new narratives of national decline’ sets out why the UK has strengths across a range of areas that will empower it in the years ahead, including in its economy, military and culture.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former Foreign Secretary, commenting on the study, said:
“The Global Britain Programme at The Henry Jackson Society shows with its inaugural report – ‘An Audit of Geopolitical Capability’ – that Britain is a cultural superpower, second only to the United States in its ability to propel liberal and democratic values around the world.”
Dr. Alan Mendoza, Executive Director of The Henry Jackson Society, said:
“There is endless talk about Britain being ‘finished’ as a major power as a consequence of Brexit. In fact, we remain the second most powerful country in the world across a basket of indicators. We now need a Global Britain strategy to accompany this reality, providing the springboard for future national success into the Brexit era.”
The author of the report and Director of the Global Britain Programme at The Henry Jackson Society, James Rogers, said:
“Declinist narratives are never productive. They sap at any nation’s confidence and wellbeing. Irrespective of one’s stance in relation to ‘Leaving’ or ‘Remaining’ inside the European Union, we need at this moment concrete suggestions and proposals that seek to empower the United Kingdom as it accelerates its withdrawal.
At the broadest strategic level, this is what our latest report tries to do. It explains how declinists have often been wrong before; it explains Britain’s unique national geopolitical strengths; and it proposes solution to capitalise on those strengths.”
Last year, we reported that researchers at European Geostrategy broke global powers down into four categories: Super Power, Global Power, Regional Power and Local Power.
The United States took the top slot as the world’s super power, while Britain took the only Global Power slot, bringing her in second behind America.
Regional powers include France, India and Germany, while local powers were those such as Italy, Brazil, and Turkey.
The organisation European Geostrategy rate the United Kingdom as a global power, they define this as:
“A country lacking the heft or comprehensive attributes of a superpower, but still with a wide international footprint and [military] means to reach most geopolitical theatres, particularly the Middle East, South-East Asia, East Asia, Africa and South America.”
The British Armed Forces comprise the Royal Navy, a blue-water navy with a comprehensive and advanced fleet; the Royal Marines, a highly specialised amphibious light infantry force; the British Army, the UK’s principal land warfare force; and the Royal Air Force, with a diverse operational fleet consisting of modern fixed-wing and rotary aircraft.
The country is a major participant in NATO and other coalition operations and is also party to the Five Power Defence Arrangements. Recent operations have included Afghanistan and Iraq, peacekeeping operations in the Balkans and Cyprus, intervention in Libya and again operations over Iraq and Syria.
Overseas defence facilities are maintained at Ascension Island, Belize, Brunei, Canada, Diego Garcia, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Kenya, Bahrain and Cyprus.
The UK still retains considerable economic, cultural, military, scientific and political influence internationally. It’s a recognised nuclear weapons state and its defence budget ranks fifth or sixth in the world. The country has been a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council since its inception.
The United Kingdom also scores highly in the Chinese ranking system called ‘Comprehensive National Power’, this is a putative measure, important in the contemporary political thought of the People’s Republic of China, of the general power of a nation-state.
The key in this matter is that while countries like China for example have a larger military than the United Kingdom, it does not have the logistical capability to deploy, support and sustain those forces overseas in large numbers.
Professor Malcolm Chalmers, director of UK Defence Policy Studies at the renowned Royal United Services Institute, says Britain would have a clear advantage in a straight fight at an equidistant location. This was described in a 2011 Briefing Paper:
“The UK will never again be a member of the select club of global superpowers. Indeed it has not been one for decades. But currently planned levels of defence spending should be enough for it to maintain its position as one of the world’s five second-rank military powers (with only the US in the first rank), as well as being (with France) one of NATO-Europe’s two leading military powers. Its edge – not least its qualitative edge – in relation to rising Asian powers seems set to erode, but will remain significant well into the 2020’s, and possibly beyond.”
According to Business Insider, Chalmers has since expanded on this:
“I think my 2011 comment remains valid. If you take individual elements of front line military capability – air, sea, land — the UK armed forces continue to outmatch those of China in qualitative terms by some margin. The UK also has greater capabilities for getting the most out of these forces, through key enabling capabilities (command and control, intelligence, strategic transport).
Not least, the UK has greater capability than China for operating at range. China (and even more so other Asian powers) remain focused on their immediate neighbourhoods, with limited capabilities for power projection. This is likely to change over the next decade. For now, though, China would still be out-matched qualitatively in a ‘straight fight’ with the UK in an equidistant location (the south Atlantic? The Gulf?), and would be unable to mobilise a force big enough to outweigh this quality gap. China’s quantitative advantages would come into play in the event of a conflict in its own neighbourhood – and its qualitative weaknesses would be less important, though still significant. So my statement was never meant to imply that the UK could outmatch China off the latter’s own coastline.”